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Deja Vu All Over Again At Arsenal


After watching Arsene Wenger’s young guns humiliated at home for the second time in less than a week, the perennial questions surrounding Le Professeur’s philosphy and transfer window policy are being whipped about in earnest.

The possibility of a waning Arsenal side doing enough to steal third place from Chelsea could only be called that, a possibility, if the Gunners’ recent performances were anything to go by.  Conventional wisdom should tell us that Arsenal would take it the Blues, especially at the Emirates, because, you know, Arsenal can get up for any game.

Obviously not.  What used to be mainly frustration at Arsenal’s inability to win ugly against lesser opponents now encompasses the worry that the squad as a whole are simply too far from competing with their main rivals.  Given the attitude and posture of this Arsenal side, I’d be reluctant to pick them over any of the other top four clubs in a one-off game.

There have been countless pleas for Arsene Wenger to make some big moves in the transfer window.  The emphasis is on big moves, rather than big names, and Andrei Arshavin may be as big a name as Wenger may dare to touch.  But there is no denying that there are gaps in the Gunner’s squad, and most of the finger-pointing is towards the back of the pitch.

While Arsenal at their best (in the Wenger era) relied more on their goal-scoring prowess more than defensive rigidity, the back line employed by George Graham and nurtured by Wenger could easily be labeled as the stable basis for success.  Kolo Toure and William Gallas perform admirably at times, but this isn’t the partnership of the future at Arsenal’s back, obviously due to age.  The yearning for a tall, atheltic centerback has fallen on deaf ears in north London, and the work of Manchester United’s Ferdinand and Vidic remain the elusive high standard.  A pipe dream, perhaps, but Chelsea can seem to make do with John Terry and Alex or Ivanovic.

Of course, the a capable shield in front of the back line has yet to pop up since Mathieu Flamini left for AC Milan.  While Wenger may have ignored the impact of the Frenchman’s departure, it’s hard to see why you’d let someone go that not only allowed your star midfielder to focus on going forward, but also could play a number of positions.

And, there is the inevitable urge to replace the spine of the team with perhaps a keeper and another striker.  All this, of course is the kind of talk that’ll go on until it becomes apparent that Wenger has his eye on an unnamed 16-year old who’s ambidextrous and pacey, but has only played 18 minutes in his professional career.

While I’ve argued in the past that Arsenal lack that mental toughness and will to really make the season count, and that they flatter themselves by looking to get closer to silver than they really are, it all has to start with a few key players.  Not an exciting cup-tied front man in the January window.  And not Amaury Bischoff.

I do believe that simply grabbing a big goon who can find a ball with his empty head is not the way to go.  And perhaps there are a shortage of those players with bite who can also begin an attack with great vision.  But surely, there must be someone that Wenger will deign to throw a few million at who can at least appear to belong in an Arsenal shirt.  Phillipe Senderos played the part well in the past, and if not for Didier Drogba, the moans surrounding him wouldn’t be as loud.

But what to make of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner?  Adebayor can be brilliant in the right formation, RvP can be downright majestic, and well, Bendtner nicks the odd goal here or there.  All have been valuable to the team, but to a team struggling to remain relevant within the top four.  What about Abou Diaby, whose first touch is simply not good enough?  Or the often-quiet performances of Denilson and Alex Song?

Where do you look and who do you go to if you’re Wenger, looking to infuse something into his squad?

Experience is often spoken of, but there’s much to be said of intensity and a tenacity, something missing among the talent and promise at the Emirates.

[Times Online]

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  1. Brian

    May 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    That’s where the frustration over Wenger’s idealism comes into play. A player over 30 isn’t necessarily useless if that experience brought is enough to make the difference over a season. The game’s changed so much since he’s entered the league, and much of it is due to him (fitness, mentality); but things are tremendously different in so many areas (wages, specialization w/in positions), that some adaptability is required.

  2. James

    May 11, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Thomas I think you right on the money. The key to Arsenal’s success next year is a good defensive midfielder. A quality DM will shield our back four who really need it and will improve their performance. I would still like to see a signing in the CB position. I think Sagna and Clichy are solid.

    I don’t think we need any changes up front. Our goals for shows that we are in the same class as MU and Chelsea. It is our goals against that shows we are need of help in the back. I don’t think that means a CB as I state above but it sure wouldn’t hurt to add one.

  3. Thomas

    May 11, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    ” The holding mid, unfortunately dubbed the “Makalele role” is nothing more than someone who can communicate in front and behind, and one that can break up an attack and play a square pass. It’s more important today obviously, but why is it so difficult to find such a player?”

    You’d think it would be that simple. But I think what makes it so difficult is that you need to find a player who can win the ball like a Center Half, moves and has ball controll like a midfielder, with excellent vision, and an extremely solid touch. Though Maka would usually play a simple ball, his ability to hit the right player to start the attack was crucial

    So while you can put a brute at the holding spot as a mid tiered team and get away with (you’ve got a ball winner, and the guy who can play a simple pass), in order to be an elite team, you need more. People would always say Maka was a glorified defender. But watching him, you can see his vision and reading of the game were unprecedented.

    I agree though, Marco Senna would be the perfect stop gap player. I just don’t see Wenger splurging that kind of cash on a player whos 33 years old.

    Though I would commend Wenger on his ability to spot youth and talent, I think his fiscal nature has harmed him. Though a somewhat unknown commodity at the time, a player like Obi Mikel was exactly who Arsenal needed. Now I know the 16million he ultimately cost isn’t chump change, the sale of other experienced players, such as Henry and Viera could have been reinvested here.

  4. Brian

    May 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Morgan, you’ve really gotta explore the web a bit more. There’s plenty of analysis out there.

  5. Brian

    May 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    And that’s the key, Thomas, bridging that gap, mixing experience w/youth like Ferguson can. If Arsenal are realistically just a few players away, Marcos Senna isn’t too long in the tooth if he can fill that void for a season or even less. Not everyone. The holding mid, unfortunately dubbed the “Makalele role” is nothing more than someone who can communicate in front and behind, and one that can break up an attack and play a square pass. It’s more important today obviously, but why is it so difficult to find such a player?

  6. Morgan

    May 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Thomas, thanks for doing the work Brian didn’t. Good analysis.

  7. Thomas

    May 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Haangeland or Richards would be good additions for Arsenal.

    I’m going to spout a bit of the obvious here, but let’s just face the reality that in today’s game it is nearly impossible to be a dominant force without someone to employ the “Makleele role”. Look at the turn of fortunes for Real after they disposed of their ball winner in midfield and replaced it with flair. Granted Chelsea added a horde of other talent, but I don’t think it is any coincidence that the team took a quick turn around once they brought in Maka.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Arsenal have not won any silverware since they parted ways with Viera. Flamini did a pretty solid job holding for Arsenal last year, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they led the league for a good while.

    Arsenal’s defensive problems, especially in the Center of midfield were more than obvious against Man United. Song/Denilson/Diaby simply aren’t good enough. They may get there, but at this point Arsenal are unable to compete with a team that has Man U’s quality (don’t almost all teams?).

    Look at Spain’s Euro 2008 victory. Sure people will point at Villa, Torress, Iniesta, Xavi and the rest of the attacking players. But make no mistake, the backbone of that side was Marco Senna. Senna is getting long in the tooth, so I wouldn’t say he would nessecarily be a viable option.

    In terms of attack, I think Arsenal are just fine. Arshavin has oozed class, and don’t forget they will be getting back Rosicky next year as well.

    Arsene needs to splurge the money on a defensive midfielder.

    If Wenger cannot bridge the gap between youth and experience pretty soon here, I think that the patience will run out for the Professor.

  8. Pritpal

    May 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    brede hangeland… yaya toure if not then miguel veloso… KARIM BENZEMA… there team is sortd for a little over 40m which can be balanced by sales of adebayor silvestre diaby bendtner. for as good as adebayor is and the fact i love the guy, benzema is just that much better and younger!

  9. joe

    May 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    We should sgin Haangeland from Fulham, hes 6.5, and very good in the air as well as strong in the tackle, hes also good on the ball and he is the perfect age for a defender at 28. also Micah richards from Man city, another big strong defender, and very athletic, plus hes british.

  10. brian

    May 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    i think its plain obvious that wenger has not brain or the know-how too ease arsenals problems, the board has repeatedly stated that there is cash available for transfers but the money is never spent ill hold onto my job that pays £4million a year thank you very much and i wont get the sack

  11. RaiderRich2001

    May 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Last I checked, there’s no chance the Royal Bank of Scotland will repossess Arsenal…

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